AsianScientist (Oct. 25, 2011) – The floods which have affected eight million people across Southeast Asia, and which now threaten Bangkok, have underlined shortcomings in disaster risk reduction, said the Head of the UN’s Bangkok Office for Disaster Reduction, UNISDR, Jerry Velasquez.
Many children are drowning because they cannot swim, and thousands of workers are now unemployed because of poorly located manufacturing plants, the UNISDR report said.
“We are particularly concerned to learn about the high numbers of children dying in these floods which was a concern raised by children themselves when over 600 were interviewed for the new Children’s Charter on Disaster Risk Reduction which was the focus of International Disaster Reduction Day on October 13,” Velasquez said.
Acccording to the report, over 200 children have died in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand out of an estimated total of 745 flood-related deaths.
In addition, more than 3,000 schools have also been affected in Thailand alone which will have long term consequences on the education of thousands of children.
“The number of children killed in these floods is really high. Thirty-eight out of 43 deaths in Vietnam, half of the 247 mortalities in Cambodia, and 52 out of 320 in Thailand. Many drowned because they did not know how to swim. Countries exposed to flooding should invest in education and teach their children how to swim,” he said.
Across the region the well-being of millions will be drastically affected by loss of livelihoods as manufacturing plants are forced to shut and agriculture struggle to recover.
“UNISDR is also urging the governments of the affected countries to open discussions with the private sector on what adjustments need to be made in their land use to locate their factories in disaster proof areas to better protect their workers and prevent them to build their home in unsafe areas,” he said.
The private sector has a responsibility in reducing disaster risks when these events are now so predictable in the light of what we know about the impact of climate change on the frequency and intensity of these types of disasters,” he continued.
At the 33rd meeting of the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Meteorology and Geophysics (SCMG) which concluded last week in Brunei Darussalam, dominating three days of talks was the urgent need for implementation of early warning systems to reduce disaster risks.
“These floods map exactly onto models for a one-in-a-hundred-years event, and things could get worse in the future. If we know where the floods are going to happen and how high they are going to be, then we should be better prepared,” said Velasquez.
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